The city council will be increasing the pay of 450 of its staff next month. But last week’s final decision to introduce a “living wage” wasn’t unanimous.
Five councillors wanted a delay.
Nicola Young moved a motion to delay the January start date till July so that there could be consultation. She said
We need to know exactly what we’re doing and its effect. Is the living wage the most effective way to eliminate poverty?
She was supported by Simon Woolf who, the DomPost reported, said there had to be a chance for ratepayers to contribute to the debate. And by Jo Coughlan who said the council move would set a precedent and they had to be sure it was done right. And by Andy Foster who said the living wage model was flawed.
But when the delaying motion was put to a vote, it was defeated by eight votes to five.
Nicola Young continued her opposition. On talkback radio the next morning she was, in her words, “discussing WCC’s implementation of Living Wage without consultation or a cost benefit analysis.”
Her concerns were echoed in a DomPost editorial, which said the living wage would be “no panacea.” Letters to the editor in this morning’s edition show that readers supported the council move and were not in sympathy with the editorial writer. And word on the streets seems to indicate general popularity for the council’s decision, though it will be making waves for other city employers such as Te Papa who continue to pay less than $18.40 an hour.
At Thursday’s council meeting, veteran councillor Helene Ritchie cautioned against a commitment to some of the council’s “big ideas.” She wanted preliminary costings before the council made a decision on eight “growth priorities.” But her colleagues voted to continue investigating them, though several – including a film museum and a longer airport runway – are not council projects. Councillor Ritchie said, realistically, there was no guarantee there would be any revenue for the council from such priorities. She was out-voted by councillors who said the priorities needed to be investigated for the good of the city’s economy. There was, however, no commitment – not yet – for them to be become a cost for ratepayers to pay.
And so the council’s working year came to an end.